Senate

Burr sold off significant amount of stock a week before market crash started: report

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sold a high volume of personal stocks the week before the stock market began its steep dive due to fears of coronavirus, ProPublica reports.

According to the investigative publication, Burr offloaded between $582,029 and $1.56 million of stock on Feb. 13 in almost 30 different transactions.

At the time, Burr and the intelligence committee were reportedly receiving daily briefings regarding the coronavirus.

The report comes as Burr drew considerable criticism earlier on Thursday when NPR obtained an audio recording from Feb. 27, in which the North Carolina senator privately warned a group of constituents that the coronavirus outbreak was "akin to the 1918 pandemic."

"There will be, I'm sure, times that communities, probably some in North Carolina, have a transmission rate where they say, 'Let's close schools for two weeks. Everybody stay home,'" he said during the meeting.

The public tone that Burr has taken about the virus has been less serious than the message he conveyed during the private meeting.

On Feb. 7, Burr penned a Fox News op-ed, in which he said the "public health preparedness and response framework that Congress has put in place and that the Trump Administration is actively implementing today is helping to protect Americans."

However, much of what Burr predicted during his luncheon with constituents has come to pass. Last week, President Trump declared the coronavirus a national health emergency. Schools all across the country have closed for at least two weeks because of the continued spread of the virus and states have shut down restaurants, bars and other leisure businesses such as movie theaters. 

In a statement to The Hill earlier on Thursday, an official for the senator remarked that he has been committed to the health and safety of Americans for over two decades. The spokesperson also defended the lawmaker, saying that he has been warning constituents about the threats of the disease since February. 

"Sen. Burr has been banging the drum about the importance of public health preparedness for more than 20 years," Burr spokeswoman Caitlin Carroll stated.

"His message has always been, and continues to be, that we must be prepared to protect American lives in the event of a pandemic or bio-attack. Since early February, whether in constituent meetings or open hearings, he has worked to educate the public about the tools and resources our government has to confront the spread of coronavirus," she said.

Per the STOCK Act - an Obama-era law - lawmakers and their staff are prohibited from making trades based on nonpublic information. The law also requires regular disclosure of trades from lawmakers. At the time, Burr was one of only three senators that voted against the bill, according to ProPublica.

 

ProPublica's investigation of public Senate records revealed that Feb. 13 was Burr's largest stock selling day in more than a year.

More than 200,000 people worldwide have been infected by the virus. In the U.S., there are more than 11,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The Hill has reached out to Burr's office for further comment.

 

Outbrain